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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Sheriff Conspired to Keep Abusive Deputy|Who Shot Her in the Head, Woman Says

MILWAUKEE (CN) - A recently suspended Milwaukee County Sheriff's deputy with a history of domestic violence shot the mother of his child in the head after Sheriff David Clarke Jr. conspired to keep him on staff, the disabled woman says in Milwaukee County Court. Thomas Hutchins, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, shot Petria Dent in front of her six children, two nieces and a nephew in December 2008. Dent says Hutchins didn't like that she had spanked their daughter after the girl hit her cousin in the face with a ruler.

Hutchins, a 14-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, pleaded no-contest to two counts of intentional first-degree reckless injury and one count of endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon.

Dent says that after she spanked the child for hitting her cousin, Hutchins hit her in the head repeatedly, pushed her down and jumped on her.

Dent says she hit him with a candleholder in self-defense, then bit him. Hutchins then shot her twice with a .40-caliber Glock issued by the Sheriff's Department.

One bullet went through Dent's mouth, shattered her teeth and fractured her mandible bone. Dent ran to a neighbor's house to hide, and Hutchins ran after her and shot through the neighbor's front door, striking a 12-year-old with four bullets, according to the complaint. Dent's neighbors found bullet shells in their Christmas presents a few weeks later.

Dent and the other victims say that Sheriff Clarke and two other high-ranking members of the department - an inspector and a captain - breached their duty and negligently supervised Hutchins by giving him access to weapons and ammunition, though he "had a documented known history of domestic violence."

Dent and the children say that Clarke and the two supervisors failed to determine if Hutchins was fit for duty and did not address Hutchins' anger control issues and history of abuse, but allowed a "known danger" to work in the community.

One week before the shooting, Hutchins had been suspended for four days as a result of trouble in his relationship with Dent, according to the complaint. Sheriff's officials were aware of a similar arrest earlier in 2008, and Hutchins' own mother confirmed the arrest, the complaint states.

And Hutchins' ex-wife had been granted a 4-year restraining order in 2006, after telling the Milwaukee County Court that he had threatened to kill her on more than one occasion.

But the sheriff's continued to allow Hutchins access to weapons. Dent says the sheriff and his officers conspired "to violate the laws of the State of Wisconsin in order to maintain Hutchins in the capacity of a deputy sheriff."

Dent says the many children who saw the "will likely continue to suffer repeated and severe bouts of mental anguish and psychological repercussions" and she and the other shooting victim will be permanently disfigured.

Dent and the children demand damages for conspiracy, assault and battery and negligence. Their lead attorney is Robert Stack, with Stack, Fahl & Bagley of Brookfield, Wisc.

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